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12/4/2015 - Winter Newsletter

HITRANS HIGHLIGHTS - Winter 2015 Newsletter


Welcome to our Winter edition of HITRANS HIGHLIGHTS, our newsletter which records the main outcomes of our Board meeting held in Stromness, Orkney, on Friday 27 November and keeps you informed of our actions to promote delivery of the Regional Transport Strategy. The newsletter complements information available on our web site: 

Annual Report 2014/15

Our annual report for 2014/15 was approved at our Board meeting in Orkney. The Annual Report is an important tool in disseminating HITRANS policy and delivery work. Our focus is electronic publication on our web site: In a foreword from Chairman Councillor James Stockan and Director Ranald Robertson, they say the year has been an exciting one for HITRANS with some excellent results and interesting challenges. They thanked the many public and private partners for their support in making 2014/15 such a successful year and said they looked forward to building upon this in the year ahead.

Research/Strategy Development Programme for 2015/16

The Partnership Board were updated on progress on delivering the Research and Strategy Development Programme and agreed amendments to the programme to reflect commitments made and changing priorities and funding opportunities identified since approval of the 2015/16 Business Plan at the Partnership meeting on 10 April 2015.

Rail stakeholder conference
HITRANS is holding a conference at Inverness on Friday 11 December to update stakeholders on rail progress across the Highlands. Our keynote speaker is Phil Verster, Managing Director of the ScotRail Alliance. We will report the results of a recent Inverness Station Survey and showcasing Network Rail plans for Aberdeen–Inverness and the Highland Mainline. We also have the latest on HITRANS’ projects including Inverness Airport Dalcross Station opening and the Branchliner Project – Timber by Rail.


Proposed new railway station at Inverness Airport, Dalcross

Members were updated on progress being made to establish a railway station at Inverness Airport, Dalcross, which will also serve proposed new housing developments to the east of the city. Useful discussions continue around the size and operation of the car park. A proposed 150 space car park including access roads is costed at £1.3million. Revenue funding will be required for the proposed shuttle bus link.

In September, officials presented the case for the station to The Highland Council’s Ward 18 and 19 members. It is proposed to hold a public consultation event at the Airport Terminal, during the 12 week period following the lodging of the planning application. If we are successful in achieving planning consent in 2016, this would suggest a potential opening date of 2017.

The Highland Council and HIAL are both proposing to contribute capital funding to the project. When backed with HITRANS £130k spent so far and the £450k land value, we will have a significant sum to assist our Scottish Stations Fund bid.


Progress is being made in examining the feasibility of making much greater use of rail as a means of transporting standing and fallen timber from the Flow Country in the North of Scotland via Kinbrace to processing markets in the south via Inverness.

Branchliner is an initiative we are driving to help the industry harvest the timber while it has value, and at the same time keeping heavy lorries off the fragile road network by transporting the timber closer to markets by rail. Upgrades of railway sidings at Kinbrace in Sutherland and Inverness are key elements of the project.

Deltix Consultants together with HITRANS have now reviewed the submissions of the five Freight Operating Companies who have expressed an interest in the operation. Discussions are ongoing with forestry owners in the Kinbrace area on the creation of an alliance or joint venture to permit a single customer interface with the rail industry. HITRANS will continue to fulfil the role of ‘virtual customer’, taking the dialogue and analysis forward towards a formal tendering process.

Briefings with Caithness and Sutherland Councillors is a key opportunity to brief members on the project and to explain the impacts on the road network if unconstrained access is to be permitted.


National Cycle Route 78–Corran to Ballachulish

Work on the first phase of a much-anticipated cycle way in Nether Lochaber, Lochaber got under way on Monday 16 November. The £1 million investment from Sustrans and HITRANS will connect an existing cycle way in North Ballachulish to the Corran Ferry terminal. Thanks go to local community groups for their valuable input into the design.
The improvements will see the existing footway that runs alongside the A82 upgraded to provide a new 5.8km long cycle way through a phased programme of works over the next six months.
The existing footway will be widened, where practical, to 2.5m, and resurfaced to provide a smoother and safer journey for cyclists as well as providing better access for pedestrians. A new 30m-span cycle bridge will be installed across the River Righ as part of the improvements.
The rolling programme will see all phases of the improvements scheduled to be completed in the spring ahead of the busy tourist season.
To allow construction of the first phase to take place safely, temporary traffic lights will be in place during daylight working hours. As the works progress into other phases the temporary traffic management will move along the A82 with advance notice given at each new phase.

Intern opportunity as Fiona prepares for maternity leave

Our Active Travel Officer, Fiona McInally, will soon begin a 26-week period of maternity leave and we wish her well. During her absence, we are seeking a temporary replacement through the Adopt an Intern Programme. The Programme will take our requirements, carry out an assessment of the needs of the graduate and provide us with the three top candidates to interview for the six-month placement. The Intern appointed to work with us will work a 25-hour week and have an opportunity to work on office administration/management tasks; policy development; stakeholder engagement and project management practice.

Caption: Fiona with the Active Travel Map for Inverness

Active Travel Strategy Update

Consultants, AECOM, have been awarded a contract to update the HITRANS Active Travel Strategy and will hold a workshop on 14 December to identify key points for future action.

A key policy within the original HITRANS Regional Transport Strategy was to undertake Active Travel Audits and produce action plans for all the regional centres and other key settlements in the HITRANS area. A total of 17 were produced between 2008 and 2012. These have recently been updated to incorporate 2011 census data and reflect any recent improvements or planning developments since they were originally produced.

Following discussion at Partnership Advisors meetings and with council officers, over £77,000 of the £100,000 available for Active Travel has been assigned to a number of projects for 2015/16:

Re-introduction of Inverness - Heathrow service

Board members have warmly welcomed the recent announcement by British Airways that they will be reintroducing air links between Inverness Airport and Heathrow, London. The year-round service commences on 3 May 2016, with a daily inbound flight leaving Heathrow just before 10:00 and an afternoon flight from Inverness.
We have evidence that more than 80,000 travellers from this area each year travel to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and even further afield to make a connection to Heathrow for travel to worldwide destinations. This announcement is a game changer in that these folk will now have the service on their doorstep, relieving them of long journeys and freeing the roads of traffic.

Scottish Transport Minister launches rural airports project

SPARA 2020 was launched by Scottish Minister for Transport Derek Mackay during a visit to Inverness Airport, Dalcross, on Wednesday 14 October.
HITRANS is spearheading the significant European-funded project to assist and develop rural and remote airports with use of new technologies.
SPARA 2020, which stands for Smart Peripheral and Remote Airports, is a three-year €2.4 million Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme area project. It brings together a range of public authorities, academic institutions, airports, small businesses and specialists to focus on the particular challenges of airports serving remote and peripheral areas.
The aim of the project is to heighten awareness of the importance to rural and remote communities of local air services; to use innovative technologies to make them as cost effective and environmentally friendly as possible.
HITRANS is the lead partner. Other Scottish partners include the University of the Highlands and Islands and Robert Gordon University whilst Sweden is represented with Trafikverket (The Swedish Transport Administration), Sundsvall Timrå Airport and Storuman Municipality. The North West Regional Assembly (NWRA) of Ireland will represent airports such as Donegal and Ireland West (Knock) in the project. Molde University in Norway and the University of Sydney is Australia are the other project partners.

European Project Officer appointed

We are delighted to have appointed Jayne Westbrook as the European Project Officer who will co-ordinate and support the delivery of SPARA 2020.

From Nairn, Jayne took up her duties at the end of October, having worked with us as a Graduate Business Support Officer. We are delighted to have Jayne on board as she has all the ingredients to deliver the aims of the project.


Argyll and Bute Transport Connectivity and Economy Study

Board members were brought up to speed with a study commissioned by HIE surrounding concerns that poor transport connectivity is having a negative economic impact in Argyll & Bute – particularly for the southern areas of Mid Argyll, Kintyre, Cowal and Bute, whilst transport constraints around Oban may also be restricting growth.

Four strategic objectives have been suggested:-

1. Enable improved economic performance of Cowal, Bute, Mid Argyll and Kintyre,
and reversal of population decline in these areas;
2. Support opportunities for economic growth (e.g. in tourism, food and drink,
aquaculture, renewables, research and higher education, construction, forestry);
3. Improve journey times (and resilience) between the study area and Glasgow;
4. Improve journey times (and resilience) internally between Argyll and Bute

The various (road, rail, fixed link, ferry) options will be assessed against these problems and objectives, also taking account of potential cost and feasibility in broad terms, and existing Transport Scotland commitments regarding trunk road, rail and ferry infrastructure.

Reactivating the Oban Hub

The retendering Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Service contract (CHFS) following the commencement of the Serco Caledonian Sleeper and Abellio ScotRail franchises provides an opportunity for looking at the interchange experience at Oban, particularly as passenger numbers on all modes of travel are growing very strongly.

We took part in recent talks with Oban and Lorne councillors to discuss how the Oban Hub could be reactivated. Brief discussions since have been held with the CMAL’s Chief Executive, Abellio ScotRail and Network Rail all of whom indicated a keen interest in participating.

We are proposing to involve Professor Richard Laing, a Built Environment Visualisation specialist from RGU to assist with 3D interpretations of what may be possible. This will back feasibility work similar to the work carried out at Inverness under Platform4Change.

Key to the success of the project will be alignment with the current and future commercial requirements of Serco Caledonian Sleepers and Abellio ScotRail on the rail side, and those of CMAL and the successful CHFS bidder on the ferry side. Future funding, including a bid to the Scottish Stations Fund, will need to be secured.

HITRANS has already committed to install real-time passengers information signs as part of the Council’s Oban CHORD project which will see improvements to the streetscape in and around Station Square. Using funding secured through the HI-Travel Bus Investment Fund new signs displaying live passenger information on bus, rail and ferry services will be provided.

Orkney Outer North Isles STAG Study

Board members have been updated on the progress of the work to undertake a STAG Part 2 Appraisal of transport connectivity to the outlying islands of Orkney with the aim of developing a timed and costed network-wide strategy and implementation plan for future inter-island transport connections.

The STAG 1 process focussed on air and ferry services specifically to the Outer North Isles. The STAG 2 appraisal process will consider all internal transportation routes and services for the Inner, South and North Isles of Orkney, namely 13 islands including infrastructure that currently serves 19 piers/terminals and 6 isles airfields.

At the HITRANS Partnership meeting on 10th April 2015 members agreed to allocate £45,000 within the 2015/16 Business plan as a contribution towards this work. Following confirmation of match funding contributions from Orkney Islands Council, HIE and Transport Scotland an Invitation to Tender was issued by Orkney Islands Council. Three compliant tenders were received and following an evaluation exercise the consultants Peter Brett Associates were selected to undertake the commission.

It is hoped that the collaborative work being undertaken for the Orkney and Shetland Islands offers the opportunity for the consultants to consider where services may be more efficiently provided but also that both Local Authorities will have a robust and evidence-based case for investment in their lifeline transport services that can form the basis for discussing how these services can be procured and funded in the future. An initial report on the emerging findings is anticipated by the end of March 2016.

A82 Tarbet – Inverarnan Preferred Route Option Consultation Response

We have provided a response to Transport Scotland’s consultation on the Preferred Route Option for the upgrade of the A82 between Tarbet and Inverarnan which selected Option 1 – Online Upgrade – to be taken forward to the detailed design stage.

We welcome the progress made to date but have stressed the need for the final design to be fit for purpose for the next generation if not beyond. For this to be achieved, HITRANS and its member local authorities have requested that the design must reflect the nationally strategic function of the A82 with the objective being to upgrade to a 7.3m carriageway plus hardstrips, adequate overtaking opportunities and a 60mph mph design speed outwith any settlements. Anything less is unlikely to address many of the current issues (such as poor safety, journey time, journey reliability and driver frustration) associated with this route which serves as a lifeline corridor for communities in Argyll & Bute, Highland and the Western Isles

Programme of meetings

The programme of meetings for 2016 will see the Board meet in Inverness on Friday 5 February; Western Isles (Friday April 15); Argyll and Bute (Friday 16 September) and West Highland (Friday 25 November).

How to contact us:

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